Nicholas Kristof Thinks ‘Bush Lies’ Is the Rosy Scenario

Brad DeLong has made a small industry of noting how the Bush administration lies by reflex (which is not at all the same thing as making it an art form). Sample titles:

Nicholas D. Kristof has just woken up to this reality. But only partly — he blames the evil courtiers and partly exonerates the evil bosses duped by their henchmen. In Death by Optimism he recounts the following story:

Mr. Cheney has cited a Zogby International poll to back his claim that there is “very positive news” in Iraq. But the pollster, John Zogby, told me, “I was floored to see the spin that was put on it; some of the numbers were not my numbers at all.”

Mr. Cheney claimed that Iraqis chose the U.S. as their model for democracy “hands down,” and he and other officials say that a majority want American troops to stay at least another year. In fact, Mr. Zogby said, only 23 percent favor the U.S. democratic model, and 65 percent want the U.S. to leave in a year or less.

“I am not willing to say they lied,” Mr. Zogby said. “But they used a very tight process of selective screening, and when they didn't get what they wanted they were willing to manufacture some results… . There was almost nothing in that poll to give them comfort.”

Mr. Kristof is concerned by this. Not because a fish rots from the head, or because he thinks that this sort of behavior has been the G.W. Bush M.O. since at least his governorship, if not his career as a military deserter. No, Mr. Kristof thinks the Evil Courtiers are misleading that nice Mr. Bush and that clever Mr. Cheney, feeding them bad data and thus leading them down the path of self-delusion:

I wish administration officials were lying, because I would prefer hypocrisy to delusion — at least hypocritical officials make decisions with accurate information.

What evidence we have, however, suggests that the decision to invade Iraq did not depend on any data, true or false, but was a goal of the administration hawks when they took office. Bad data may have influenced the tactics, and the force levels, but there's nothing to suggest reality had much to do with the over-all strategy.

In any case, even if it were the case that the Evil Courtiers were lying to the Emperor, what creates the conditions in which this behavior is a successful strategy for the careerist courtier? Only a climate that punishes the truth.

So the scary thing is, Mr. Bush and his aides may not be lying when they look at Iraq and boast of a cheering population that a Western press sourly refuses to acknowledge. There's a precedent: Saddam Hussein.

Could anyone have imagined a year ago that Kristof or other establishment columnists would be comparing Bush to Saddam Hussein? Or that it wouldn't seem odd?

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4 Responses to Nicholas Kristof Thinks ‘Bush Lies’ Is the Rosy Scenario

  1. Brad DeLong says:

    Ah! If only the Czar knew what the cossacks were doing to us! The Little Father would save us!

  2. dilbert dogbert says:

    Brad also has the topic of the similarity of the Bush WH to the Topcapi (sp?) palace during the Ottoman Empire.
    I get a good laugh when he puts a new one up on his page. I turn to Brad just after reading the NYT to see what Krugman says about the latest lies from the WH.

  3. “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.” — Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002

  4. Michael says:

    Actually, not. Hillary here uses the same artful and misleading but not false formulation now being used by the Bush administration — Saddam “seeks” to do stuff, or “works” to do stuff. And “if” it worked, at some unspecified time in the future, THEN he’d be scary. But lots of states “seek” to get nukes for example. But it’s not that easy and the issue is, how close are they to succeeding.

    There remains no evidence on the record that Iraq was anything but YEARS away from success and if that’s right, the invasion was, at its most charitable, highly premature. But we were told that it would be too dangerous to wait.

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